Has lots of useful built-in functions and toolboxes for signal processing, data analysis, modelling etc.
Hard to get used to if you're used to C/C++ or Java as it is not object oriented, and the syntax is quite different.
H=tf(60*pi, 1 60*pi);
Once thought to be derived from the English "matrix", meaning an array of numbers, and "laboratory", meaning a place of study. Now known to be a demonic word meaning 'a 3x3 matrix of 6's'.